"At the close of a summer day, tired-winged bees to a safe shelter fly, to poppies, who wrap them away...in a lullaby..."
—Grace Hibbard, 1901
Thanks to the record rains we had this past winter and Spring, the signature orange-golden California poppy flowers are blooming. I took the first two and fourth photo in the wooded areas behind our town house.
The California poppy is an attractive native wildflower. More than a century ago, in 1903 it became the state flower and protected by state law prohibiting anyone from picking or destroying it. April 6 was dubbed California Poppy Day.
On cooler, windy, cloudy days and chilly nights, the poppy closes its’ petals to protect it’s reproductive organs. The golden poppies are what the children call sleeping flowers; and as evening approaches they close up. Tucked snugly inside the petals in a warm embrace one can find bees fast asleep with their legs tucked up, and their shiny bodies covered with pollen.
Early Spanish settlers called the poppy copa del ora (cup of gold) due to its cup like appearance when fully open.
California poppies make their greatest showing, on the grazed lands of California hillsides since animals avoid eating the bitter-tasting plants.
Native California Indians used poppies for food and medicine. The plants were boiled or roasted on hot stones to eat as greens. Other tribes used the flower as a potent scalp rub to kill lice, and still other tribes used it as a poultice of fresh root for toothaches. The poppy plant also has sedative and analgesic properties and some say it can be used to treat pateints with insomnia and anxiety.
Photo credit: The fourth photo with the bumble bee foraging for pollen was taken by Kathy Keetley Garvey.
Postscript: Grace Hibbard's full poem circa 1901:
WHERE CALIFORNIA BEES SLEEP
When the cold white fog rolls in from the sea,
At the close of a summer day,
Tired—winged bees to a safe shelter fly,
To poppies, who wrap them away
In blankets of soft, shining, satin sheen—
Silken coverlets fit for kings,—
And breezes sway in a lullaby way
The bees with the tired wings.
But lo! when the the sun shines out once again,
And kisses the tops of the trees,
The poppies unfold into cups of gold,
And away fly the honey-bees.